So you have decided to bring up your son to speak your family’s languages – what will this mean for your family life? What will be different?
1. A little bit of extra effort
There is a bit of extra effort to be put in for you to succeed in raising your son to become a bilingual. You need to stay conscious about your own language use and not slip into the “wrong” language – even when he starts school and gets used to communicating in the majority language and subsequently also uses it when he comes home. To ensure that he becomes an active speaker of the language you need to keep track of how much exposure he gets to your language, as it may be less than you think and you need to find other ways to increase the amount of time he is exposed to it.
2. Time investment
You need to invest some of your time to make sure you reach your goal of a bilingual little boy – there is no way around it. “But what if I don’t have the time?” you might think. It is really not a question of time though, is it? It’s about priorities. Time is after all the single most democratic resource we all have – we get 24 hours a day, no more, no less. It’s how we use the time that is the deciding factor. If something is really important to us we find the time for it. If you want to, you will find the time to read to your son more often and spend more time doing things together.
3. Being different as a family
Although more and more families in today’s world are multilingual, there are still those who will raise an eyebrow at your family’s language use when out in the public. Some will also question your decision to raise bilingual child. You will need the confidence to continue your journey towards a multilingual family independent of others’ opinions. You will also need the patience to explain why you are doing it, as you will get asked – several times. It is also important to be aware of how the fact that you are different from other families affects your son – does he feel embarrassed? If yes, discuss it and find a compromise.
4. Choices, choices, choices
There are an abundance of decisions you will have to make with regards to your family. If your child is not born yet, there is the question of choosing the name – can it be easily pronounced in both languages, does it have any unwanted connotations in any of the languages, will it be acceptable to both sides of the family? Traditions – which ones to follow and should you create new ones? TV programmes, films, DVDs, books, magazines, etc. – which language should they be in? Holidays – are you going to spend all family holidays where your son can practice his language skills? What to speak when monolingual friends and family members are present?
Being aware of these factors in advance will make it easier to tackle any challenges you may encounter on the way. I wish you all the best!
May the peace and power be with you.